Men's Rights: At the beginning of the film we’re showed a statistic that 2.5 million domestic violence cases are reported each year; more than 1 million of those are false reports. It’s followed by a quote says the system was originally designed to protect against violent acts. What type of system is in place now?
Tom Lemons: Over the course of two years of research and sitting in on domestic violence hearings, I’ve found it’s too easy for someone to walk into a clerk’s office and ask for a domestic violence injunction (or order of protection or whatever your state calls it).
Basically there’s too many of these being given to people for frivolous things such as comments or gestures. They are being given on an ex parte order that goes on someone’s record and is there forever; they don’t go away. That’s the biggest problem and what I’ve been trying to address.
Men's Rights: Even if the report is found to be false or dismissed, you have been accused and most guys will still walk around with this brand that they are abusers or they sexually molest their children. How does that stigma affect these guys as they go on with their lives?
Tom Lemons: It’s an incredible impact. People think this is a civil injunction, which is not criminal. But when an employer does a background check and sees a domestic violence injunction, especially the way the job market is now, they are going to put that person aside immediately, erring on the side of caution just as judges are doing.
Men's Rights: You talked to a prosecutor who said she had never heard of someone who lied in a domestic violence hearing being prosecuted for perjury. So there are no repercussions for lying or making false allegations. Now I know states have laws that say you cannot file false reports and lie to the courts, so why is this instance of perjury going unenforced?
Tom Lemons: You’re absolutely right; states already have statutes in place to cover perjury in court. The problem is (prosecutors and judges) are just not going after these people. The excuse that I get is, "We don’t want to put too much pressure on these victims because it’s going to prevent them from reporting abuse."
That’s really the biggest problem I’m finding is that they are just not prosecuting these particular accounts of perjury. You can come into a courtroom with voice recordings and written evidence of the opposing party lying, and 90% of the time they are not going to press charges against that person.
I don’t know why they aren’t; they just aren’t.
For example, there are 67 counties in Florida where I live. Only one is actively prosecuting people for perjury. So we’re trying to get that to become a regular practice throughout Florida and elsewhere.
Men's Rights: So the million-dollar question is what can be done? Are there solutions available to combat this problem?
Tom Lemons: We have to change the national perception, which is always an uphill battle. Mainstream media always propagates that men commit 95% of abuse, and the Violence Against Women Act propagates the same theme. There are so many things that create this belief that men are abusers and men cannot and are not abused.
One of the things I’ve recently done is submitted a proposal to my local congressman as a way of taking that first small step. If we can just do one small step at a time to get these changes made state-by-state then this may grow into federal changes.
We also need to get these injunctions and protective orders taken off a person’s record if there is no finding of abuse. If the judge throws it out then that should come off the public record immediately.
Men's Rights: I’m curious how you became interested in creating this documentary? Do you have a personal connection to this subject?
Tom Lemons: Absolutely. I went through this a few years ago going through a divorce. As a tactic of that divorce I was slapped with an injunction that spiraled out of control. I ended up getting arrested and it was an incredible mess. There was absolutely no proof; no photograph, police report, or a police call.
This is what inspired me to start researching and investigating how this is happening. Every day I talk to several men that are going through this and they are begging for help and begging for change.
Men's Rights: You mentioned a key word there: tactic. So many of these orders of protection are used as legal strategy rather than actually serving to protect from abuse.
Finally, I know you're working on another documentary so what topic does your next film feature?
Tom Lemons: The film is going to expound more on the ease of obtaining these injunctions and the Batterer’s Intervention Program. I’d like to dig deeper into these Batterer Intervention meetings, and also get into a clerk’s office and see how these injunctions actually happen.
I want to get on video the commentary, the rhetoric and the encouragement to lie. That is what I'm hearing more than anything; people are encouraged to embellish or create things when trying to acquire an injunction to make it easier on the judge to grant one.
I'm going to try to expose this with a lot of hidden video and hopefully it will be as compelling as "DVI: The Inside Story."
Watch the full interview between Matt Allen and Tom Lemons on DadsDivorce.com: Movie Examines Effects Of False Allegations On Dads
If you are a victim of false allegations of abuse, do not wait. Contact Cordell and Cordell and the divorce attorneys for men to immediately to discuss your options.